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In Florida, Big Brother tells you when you can die

Will politicians stop at nothing to get votes? Not in the Sunshine State. In Florida, politicians will even keep a brain-dead body alive, as long as there are potential votes to be gained.

In just two days – with no public hearings, no evidence and no testimony from medical experts – the state legislature overrode 13 years of rulings by over 20 judges and gave Gov. Jeb Bush extraordinary, and probably unconstitutional, powers to order that Terri Schiavo’s feeding apparatus be reconnected, six days after it had been unplugged at the request of her husband.

“It’s an act of political courage,” crowed my MSNBC colleague Pat Buchanan. As usual, Pat is dead wrong. This is no act of political courage. It’s the most shameless act of pure political pandering – by the legislature and by the governor – this country has ever witnessed.

Before you stand up and cheer along with Pat, consider this: God forbid that some tragic accident happen to a member of your family. But if it were your mother or father, husband or wife, son or daughter on life support and you had to make a tough decision, whom would you turn to? You would talk to doctors, first. You would talk to other family members. You would consult your priest, minister or rabbi. You would spend a lot of time on your knees, praying to God. And then you would decide.

Suppose your family decided that what was best for your loved one was to pull the plug and let that poor person die in peace. The last thing you would want is for some ambitious, uninformed, smooth-talking politician to butt in, call the hospital and order: “No way! She has no right to die. Plug the machine back in!”

You would, understandably, be outraged. And so should all Americans be outraged at what took place in Florida. This is Big Brother at his worst: Politicians making medical decisions. Politicians telling us when we can die and when we can’t. Soviet communism didn’t get any worse than this.

This issue is complicated, of course, because Terri Schiavo’s parents don’t want their daughter to die. With the support of many conservative Christians, they pressured the legislature and governor to act. Her husband, Michael, had ordered her feeding tube unplugged too soon, they insisted, before she was given therapy, before she was tested to see if she could swallow on her own and before doctors knew whether she might survive.

The facts are just the opposite. Sadly, in February 1990, Schiavo suffered a severe heart attack. She has been kept alive only by feeding machine ever since. During that time, electrodes were implanted in her brain to restart it. They failed. She was tested three times to see if she could swallow. She failed.

She has been examined by scores of doctors. They are unanimous in their opinion that Terri Schiavo is brain dead. Their medical evidence has been reviewed by over 20 judges. Every one of them agreed that Terri Schiavo has zero chance of recovery.

Not only that. Before her heart attack, like millions of Americans, Terri and Michael Schiavo had agreed that neither wanted to be kept alive by artificial means. But now her last wish has been denied. She’s back on the feeding machine. Why? Only so shallow Florida politicians, led by Gov. Bush and House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, could exploit her life – for the votes of conservative Christians.

That’s what puzzles me the most. In response to last week’s column on this issue, arguing that Terri Schiavo be allowed to die with dignity, I received hundreds of angry e-mails from so-called Christians who attacked me for being uncaring, uncompassionate and un-Christian.

My fellow Christians, I believe the truth is just the opposite. There is nothing more uncaring than treating Terri Schiavo like a lab experiment. There is nothing more uncompassionate than government’s dictating family medical decisions. There is nothing more un-Christian than interfering with God’s plan.

We learned from the Bible that death is part of life. Death is not something to be afraid of, because, if we live by faith and good works, we will come face to face with our Creator and enjoy eternal life.

That’s God plan for us. It is not part of his plan that Terri Schiavo, or any one of us, be kept alive by machine.